Preparing and hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner can be overwhelming. Planning, preparation, and purpose can make it easier and more fun.
Usually we eat dinner with family at one of their homes.
My grandmother has cooked and hosted our family’s Thanksgiving dinners for as long as I can remember. No one was allowed in the kitchen. Don’t offer to help, because she’ll just turn you down. For the last couple of years, as her health has deteriorated, we’ve had dinner at my Aunt & Uncle’s. All in all, for over 30 years, all I’ve had to do was show up, eat, and go home with leftovers.
This year (a couple of months ago to be exact), my husband asked me to cook Thanksgiving dinner. First. time. ever.
So. Here’s my plan for preparing my first Thanksgiving dinner.
1. Decide the menu.
I figured the first logical step would be to ask him what he wanted for dinner. Part of me was hoping he would ask for less than is traditional and the other part of me opened it up for discussion so I could announce the shortcuts I will be taking.
Our Thanksgiving Menu:
- turkey breast
- macaroni & cheese
- green beans
- spinach salad
- cherry turnovers
- cranberry or cherry punch (recipe)
2. Plan to take shortcuts.
Out of my menu of 10 items, I am taking shortcuts on 7 of them – only making about 3 homemade items.
I’m cooking a turkey breast, instead of a fresh or frozen whole turkey. The breast will take 1 hours to cook instead of 5 hours for a whole turkey. (Save 4 hours)
The hubby likes Velveeta Shells & Cheese. I don’t. So, I may make a pot of that and a pot of homemade macaroni & cheese from my best friend’s recipe. Stay tuned for this recipe. It will be worth the wait. Maybe I can talk her into making it for me, then I will write the recipe down and take photos. (Save 45 minutes)
Box stuffing mix instead of homemade (Save 1 hour 20 minutes)
Canned yams instead of homemade (Save 40 minutes)
Heat and serve rolls instead of homemade (Save 2 hours 50 minutes)
Grandma’s corny corn bread Stay tuned for this recipe. It too will be worth the wait.
Glory brand green beans mixed with one can regular green beans instead of fresh (Save 1 hour 20 minutes)
Fresh Spinach salad – I need to find a recipe on Pinterest
Pepperidge Farms Cherry turnovers instead of homemade (Save 30 minutes)
Cranberry or cherry punch (to stick with this season’s theme – also need to find a recipe on Pinterest)
Total time saved: over 11 hours! I should be able to pull this off in 2-3 hours.
3. Put your own spin on it.
How is our menu different than traditional or my family’s usual menu? I am utilizing convenience and prepared foods as much as I can. This Thanksgiving will be different because I will be preparing it (even if it is not totally homemade) and we will have our first annual Thanksgiving in our home. At usual family Thanksgiving gatherings, there were 3-4 meats, 6-10 side dishes and vegetables, 2-3 desserts, and 2-3 bread choices. I’m keeping it simple.
THANKSGIVING SHOPPING LIST
4. Make a list of all the items needed.
My list includes:
- turkey breast
- elbow macaroni
- Colby cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- American cheese
- Stovetop stuffing
- Bruce’s canned yams
- store brand heat and serve rolls
- corn meal
- canned creamed corn
- Glory brand green beans
- store brand green beans
- mandarin oranges
- Balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Pepperidge Farm cherry turnovers
- ginger ale
- cranberry or cherry punch
- can (6 ounces) frozen pink lemonade concentrate
- bottle (32 ounces) cranberry juice cocktail
5. Clip and print coupons.
6. Check the cabinets to see what you already have.
7. Make a list of what you will need.
8. Shop for supplies, on sale.
9. Make ahead.
10. Set the table.
I’ve read that if this is your first time preparing a full Thanksgiving meal that you should do a trial run instead of making your guests eat your experiments. Well, I’m sorry, I will not be taking that advice. For one, I will not be hosting any guests, unless some strays happen to stop by. Then, “beggars can’t be choosers.” Second, I don’t have time, money, or food to waste on trial and error. I’m not preparing anything too exquisite, so I will have to hope that I don’t burn anything and that I can fix the seasoning on anything as needed.
12. Accommodate guests.
13. Clean up afterward.
Linked to Thrifty Thursday